Packed Meeting Debates AFC Wimbledon's Stadium Plans

Developers of proposed new ground are put on the spot

A public meeting called to give residents chance to quiz the development team behind AFC Wimbledon's new stadium plans packed out a school hall in the town last night (February 11).

The club wants to build a 20,000 capacity stadium, with an initial 11,000 seats, on the site of the current Wimbledon Stadium in Plough Lane.

Along with partner Galliard Homes, it also plans shops, a squash and fitness club, 602 homes with basement parking, 297 car parking spaces and cycle parking.

A rival plan for the site involves expanding the greyhound stadium to a 4,500 seat arena as well as building 550 new homes.

The meeting was organised by Merton Council at Ricards Lodge School to give residents the chance to hear directly from AFC Wimbledon and Galliard Homes about their plans.

Around 400 people attended the meeting, with most expressing their backing for the scheme. The only two bursts of applause during the evening came after comments made in support of the project.

Erik Samuelson, AFC Wimbledon Chief Executive, said his three key messages were that the scheme would embrace the cultural heritage of Wimbledon, be sustainable and offer substantial community benefits. He added: "It will allow the club to continue to grow, and in some ways Wimbledon will be coming home".

Some of the questions related to concerns over transport and parking issues, as well as the flooding risk on the site.

There will only be spaces for 75 cars, the meeting was told, which means no parking for general supporters. A survey carried out for the club in July 2012 showed there were 16,000 parking spaces within 2km of the ground, with 5-6,000 of those being vacant.

Panel member Duncan Parr, from Savills, who have submitted the planning application on behalf of AFC Wimbledon, assured residents expressing concern about potential parking problems that another transport survey would be carried out. If this did not validate the original survey, then a bigger check would be carried out.

"The vast majority of fans will come by public transport. Some will drive, but when the stadium opens there will be an on-going review of parking," he added.

Mr Parr also revealed that, if the plan gets the go-ahead, then work will start on the site in 2016, with the aim of the stadium being opened in September 2017. The residential scheme would be completed around a year after that, he said.

Mr Samuelson told the meeting that he "comfortably" expects to see AFC Wimbledon's crowds rise by an average of 55% to around 6,200. He also said the project would create 350 jobs for the site work, as well as an extra 50 paid matchday jobs.

In response to rumours that the new ground could be shared by a rugby club, he said: "We have no intention of ground-sharing with anyone and we have no intention of staging concerts."

Neil Milligan, Merton Council Development Control Manager, admitted it was more likely that the application would not to go planning committee before the May General Election. "We need to look into a number of issues, and I can't say exactly when it will be coming to committee. But March and April are likely to pass by," he said.

It emerged before the meeting that Mayor of London Boris Johnson has written to Merton Council stating that the principle of the development is in line with strategic and local planning policy. He adds that it doesn't comply with the London Plan on a number of issues, but there are possible remedies for all of these areas.

The issues he mentions include demonstrating that the proposals would not cause a flood risk; detailing the element of affordable housing; detailing the design of the children's play space and the site in general; more work on the transport arrangements.

He has asked Merton Council to consult with him again before a final decision is made.

  • It it understood that nearly 15,000 of the 20,000 comments made to Merton Council about the scheme are from a PeTA-backed campaign against the greyhound stadium plans. Nearly 400 people are thought to have opposed AFC Wimbledon's scheme, with more than 4,000 positive comments coming from football-related respondents and local residents.

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February 12, 2015